On Interviews: The Art of Hanging Out

Does a fancy chair make for a great conversation?

Minnesota Monthly editor Reed Fischer interviewing Thomas Abban.
Minnesota Monthly editor Reed Fischer (Left) interviews Thomas Abban (Right)

photo by casie beldo

I’m a fan of literary journalist Gay Talese as an interviewer, writer, and thinker. The man behind the influential Esquire profile “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is an impeccable dresser, to boot. But I knowingly break most of his rules. Talese doesn’t condone constant use of laptop computers, and proudly asserts he never employs a recording device during interviews. Forgive me, Mr. Talese.

Also, much as I’d like to, I rarely can meet with my interview subjects for hours at a time, in a picturesque outdoor environment—especially in the winter. Still, “the art of hanging out,” which is how he has described conducting an interview, is not lost on me.

When I saw a pair of high-backed, red Tulip Chairs (pictured above) adorning the recently renovated Baker Center atrium—Minnesota Monthly’s Minneapolis office is upstairs—a window opened in my mind. You could fill several rooms with adequate IKEA furnishings for the price of one of these chairs, originally released in 2010 by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. But for a sit-down interview? Potentially priceless.

When two chairs face each other across a table, they narrow your peripheral vision and richly amplify your conversation. This month’s cover star, musician Thomas Abban, was game to try out this setup. The results? I leave it to you to assess the words—and his music, which we are partial to—but we were definitely hanging out on works of art.